Band: Jenny and Johnny
Album: I’m Having Fun Now
Release Date: August 31, 2010
Gosh, it sure is nice to hear Jenny Lewis makin’ music again. I practically flipped a shit when it was announced that she and her boyfriend, Johnathan Rice, would release new material under the name Jenny and Johnny.
We got our first taste of the new record when the lead track, “Scissor Runner,” was released on the Internet. Then “Big Wave” followed.
Both were received positively… by me. And since, I’d been anxious to sample I’m Having Fun Now’s nine other tracks. Released next week, the album marks Jenny’s third non-Rilo Kiley album and first since 2008’s Acid Tongue.
Jenny and Johnny play together like they’ve been doing so for a good long while. Or, at least, longer than five years. They met in 2005 in Nebraska when Johnny traveled there to make his first record. Jenny was there, too, working on her debut solo, Rabbit Fur Coat. They struck up a friendship and played on each others’ recordings.
Since, Johnny has played at every show of Jenny’s solo career. If you’re familiar with a song like “Carpetbaggers” off Jenny’s Acid Tongue, that’s Johnny’s voice about a minute and a half in.
Well. Jenny and Johnny’s voices go so well together. [Fill in your favorite “like peanut butter and chocolate” metaphor here]. Besides an opportunity to work creatively with her boyfriend, I’m sure the idea of exploring their sounds together was a driving force for Jenny in getting a record off the ground.
Besides “Scissor Runner” and “Big Wave” — which I’ll get to soon — I really responded to “Switchblade,” which is Los Angeles in three and a half minutes.
I lived there for about a year and personally experienced much that they croon about.
It was poverty that kept you sweet
And dreams that kept you young
The money started rolling in
You stopped having any fun
Life there in the entertainment industry is brutal and at times god awful. You may go through it paycheck to paycheck, and schmoozing with people you actually don’t really like. And, if you’re fortunate to make any green at all, it’s probably because of your work on a project you didn’t care about to begin with.
It’s a tough life, and keeping those feet on the ground — which Jenny and Johnny also reference — is difficult to do. Applause to the both of them for such an honest tune.
“Big Wave” is another good one, and for me highlights the state of American life. It’s all Jenny — Johnny is reduced to “do do dos” and some light backups — who criticizes the banks, doctors, pill-popping and living outside our means.
They get political in a song like “Animal,” which doesn’t surprise me considering this is the same band that boycotted stops in Arizona because of the state’s new immigration policy. On their official website, Jenny and Johnny said the controversial bill “legalizes and sanctions racial profiling,” and that they wanted to issue love and respect for their friends of latino/chicano/hispanic origin “by boycotting the state of arizona [sic] until they come to their senses.”
The song, though, seems to target America’s foreign policy and the half-baked decisions its lawmakers make.
In one scenario, Johnny belts:
We must modernize Jerusalem, detonate the temples, let ’em fight over the dust. We will organize in Bethlehem, able-bodied women and agnostic, headstrong men. All will meet at 10.
I get a kick out of that last bit; assigning some arbitrary number to a meeting of people who probably shouldn’t be there in the first place. It’s a nice touch, and evidence of Jenny’s perpetual, brash wit.
One gripe on the new record, however, would be in its speediness. An average track’s running time is about three minutes and change, and the longest is “New York Cartoon” at just over four minutes. I had hoped we’d be treated to another anthem like “The Next Messiah” (8:47) or even “Jack Killed Mom” (5:27). This isn’t the case.
And yet, I’m Having Fun Now certainly isn’t another Acid Tongue. Most everything here moves pretty quickly and is way more indie pop than what we’re used to from Jenny’s solo career. It’s an exciting, fun sound, and yet another productive addition to Jenny’s solid resume.
- Jenny and Johnny, based in California, is comprised of Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice.
- I’m Having Fun Now can be streamed in its entirety on NPR.org. You can do so through August 31 — the album’s release date.
- The group offers a quartet of I’m Having Fun Now packages on their website, from a digital download for $9.99 to copies of the vinyl, CD, three limited edition 7 inches, a limited edition cassette and digital download for $39.99. Note: Nothing will ship until August 31.
- Jenny and Johnny will play Lincoln Hall on September 13 — my birthday! Other guests that night include Love as Laughter and Jaill. Tickets are $20.